In most learning situations, we see three elements at work:
We’re given objectives, we get instructed on how to achieve those objectives, and the learning stems from the results that we obtain.
Growing up, this was the learning structure that we had at the core, but there were many others that grew around that time. The only problem was they weren’t common practice and still aren’t.
I’ve covered others before through self-taught learning and deliberate practice. But one other I haven’t covered is habits of mind. These habits are powerful like most of non-traditional learning methods.
For this one, in particular, it can lead to great success and could change your life forever.
What Are “Habits of Mind”?
The habits themselves are nothing new or revolutionary. Developed by Art Costa and Bena Kallick, the two authors of Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind: 16 Essential Characteristics for Success, believe these habits are less on behavior but more on intent.
The pair writes:
A “Habit of Mind” means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known. When humans experience dichotomies, are confused by dilemmas, or come face to face with uncertainties–our most effective actions require drawing forth certain patterns of intellectual behavior. When we draw upon these intellectual resources, the results that are produced through are more powerful, of higher quality and greater significance than if we fail to employ those patterns of intellectual behaviors.
Another way to look at this is that the habits of mind push us to look at problems from different angles. Not only that, but it can be challenging to achieve this as successfully using these habits of mind requires skill, and experience.
So don’t think you’ll achieve mastery of these over a short period of time.
The 16 Habits of Mind
But don’t get your hopes down because it’ll be challenging. As I said above, these habits are nothing complicated or new. Chances are you’ve got some of these habits.
The challenge is using those habits in a learning situation to develop yourself further. With that said, here is a rundown of the habits.
- Managing Impulsivity
- Listening with Understanding and Empathy
- Thinking Flexibly
- Thinking about Thinking
- Striving for Accuracy
- Questioning and Posing Problems
- Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
- Thinking and Communicating with Clarity & Precision
- Gathering Data Through All Senses
- Creating, Imagining, Innovating
- Responding with Wonderment and Awe
- Taking Responsible Risks
- Finding Humor
- Thinking Interdependently
- Remaining Open to Continuous Learning
While knowing the habits is one thing, it’s another to apply them in a learning environment. Below are some examples of each of the habits of mind can be used.
Persistence is all about not giving up and achieving whatever your goal is. Over the years, there have been several examples of this. When it comes to developing this skill, the best thing to do in this scenario is to pull from these examples.
How this helps with learning is that it encourages us to continue learning and working towards our goals.
2. Managing Impulsivity
Remember that habits of mind are designed to find problems that people wouldn’t find on the first go. This is key because whenever we see problems, we are quick to act on impulse. We don’t bother to think about other options.
This habit of mind helps us to hesitate, but only to consider other possible scenarios. In other words, you want to be practicing patience when coming up with solutions and deciding how to act.
How this helps in a learning situation is it pushes us to weigh our options when presented with a problem.
3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy
Many of us listen in order to reply rather than listen to understand and relate to the person. In conversations, we can find ourselves comparing, judging, placating or offering advice rather than listening and understanding a message.
To improve those skills, catch yourself whenever you do those sorts of things. This can also help in learning because when we are listening to understand, we have a deeper grasp of concepts, and the problems.
4. Thinking Flexibly
We all have opinions and perspectives of reality and that bias seeps into everything that we see and what we read and learn. For this specific habit of mind, developing this requires us to look at things from a different angle.
That’s not to say to look at everything with skepticism, but rather to use a different perspective than our own or the original speakers. Place yourself in different shoes and walk around in them as they say.
How this applies to learning environments is that when we use different angles, there’s a deeper understanding. Knowing one side of a problem is good, but knowing where both parties are coming from is even better.
Otherwise known as thinking about thinking, developing this habit comes down to that. It’s important that you’re aware of your thinking process.
How you do that comes down to charting a map. A good example is drawing up a diagram of relationships. It’s a map that details the relationship between a want and a need as well as a gesture and a need to gesture.
6. Striving for Accuracy
This habit of mind is ensuring that what you are doing is accurate. How would you know if you’re doing it right without someone telling you it’s correct?
While you don’t want to be reliant on people’s opinions, it is still helpful to get others to check what you’re doing is proper and that you are making progress.
This is why it helps to have at least two or three people review your work before it moves on. Provided that reviewing is possible.
7. Questioning and Posing Problems
Learning stems from presenting problems and asking questions. For some generations, this is second nature as many aren’t afraid to go to google and figure things out. Developing this habit stems from this as well.
That or if you are in the middle of something, you could write questions down on post-it notes.
8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
Another part of the habits of mind is that these develop through experiences. These experiences can be recent or they can stem from the past. Recalling previous knowledge and applying it to new situations can have it’s merits.
By no means is it always the best solution on the table, but knowing what was done in the past can add a deeper understanding. Either way pulling from an area you’re already comfortable in can improve learning.
9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity & Precision
This one goes hand in hand with listening with understanding and empathy. The idea behind this habit of mind is to speak directly to people and avoid being vague, abstract or using imprecisions.
Examples of these words are always, all, everybody, celebrities, technology.
It’s not that using these words is bad or improper. Being able to speak directly and to think with a narrow focus helps in approaching a problem. Just because one piece of technology is faulty, doesn’t make all technology faulty. When addressing a problem and communicating, we need to focus on the specific point first.
10. Gathering Data Through All Senses
What this means is looking at various sources when it comes to learning. Of course, the quality of the source is important but pulling from sources like sensory data, blogs, and other third-party sources can have its merits.
11. Creating, Imagining, Innovating
Learning can be pulled from all kinds of different methods. It’s also good for you to be keeping the creative side of ourselves active as well seeing as it can provide opportunities for us to think of new solutions.
Similar to being flexible with our thinking, tapping into other regions that we may not excel in can help.
12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe
If you see learning as a chore, chances are you won’t be retaining any information. It’s important that we have a passion for the subject and that we’re eager to learn and indulge in the topic.
Responding with awe and wonderment is one of the side effects when we are interested in a topic.
13. Taking Responsible Risks
For this habit of mind, this prioritizes how we see failure and when to take risks. It’s important to see failure as an improvement to grow rather than something to get punished for.
14. Finding Humor
Humor can bring things back to reality as we find all kinds of things funny. While what you are learning could be serious, tying it into stories that cause positive emotions will help in making it stick.
15. Thinking Interdependently
Today this is easier to achieve thanks in part to social media. Because we are all connected, it’s easy for us to connect our thoughts with other people. Every single day, more content is published and shared and consuming that can help us in this area.
16. Remaining Open to Continuous Learning
The last of the habits of mind is learning continuously. As the habit suggests, learning is constant and old ideas need to be revised. After all, we know how problematic it can be when methods or views are dated.
The world is on the move to growing and improving day after day — online and offline. It’s up to us to stay up to speed by developing ourselves too: How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You
The habits of mind focus heavily on our own experiences and skills in the world. The more we get out to experience life, the more that we will learn and hone these 16 skills.
By taking these skills to heart and applying them in learning, we can begin to change our lives as the knowledge we gain can be applied in many facets of our lives. The habits of mind are indeed the keys to our success and growth.